What is an Active Birth?
This is a concept whereby prospective parents actively participate in the birth of their baby, as opposed to being passive recipients of medical attention. It is a practice through which, in partnership with doctors and midwives, the parents take responsibility and control through informed choice of alternatives.
Principal features include encouraging upright positions, freedom of movement and natural breathing during labour. This is meant to maximize comfort, enhance ability to cope with contractions using natural resources and thereby complement the physiological process.
How do upright positions make a difference in labour?
Studies have shown that freedom of movement in labour helps significantly in coping with contraction pains. In the process, the need for drugs may be minimized or avoided altogether.
There is a theoretical advantage in the position as it promotes the natural alignment with the downward force of gravity. This may allow for good application of the baby's head on the cervix and possibly promote faster dilatation.
In this position, the uterine contraction forces work in tandem with gravity and therefore more efficiently. This may reduce the need for augmentation of labour through artificial stimulation of the uterus.
One of the commonest problems associated with a supine position (lying on your back) is compression of major blood vessels in the abdomen by the heavy pregnant uterus. This often leads to fetal distress. An upright position prevents this potential problem.
The positions encourage the easiest angle of descent and rotation of the baby through the pelvic canal thereby facilitating a more efficient labour.
Is it really beneficial to actually give birth in an upright position?
Lying on your back inevitably constricts the pelvic joints. This does not happen in upright positions. The freedom of the sacrum and coccyx to move back allows for the creation of more space in the pelvis, facilitating the easier passage of the baby through the pelvis.
The bearing down that is required during the second stage of labour (the delivery stage) is relatively easier to do in this position because of the help from gravity, akin to pushing a heavy object downhill as compared to along a flat surface.
Does an Active Birth benefit the baby?
By facilitating a more efficient labour, the baby's chances of suffering distress are reduced. Also, by reducing the need for pain-relieving drugs, the baby will not suffer the unwanted effects of these drugs,, which include respiratory depression.
Overall, the reduced possibility of medical intervention will mean a faster recovery of the baby from the traumas of the baby after birth.
There are supposed to be several positions. Will I be able to remember them when labour is in full swing?
The Active Birth Centre encourages partaking in regular yoga classes, where positions are practised over several weeks, leading to term.
This will enable your body to create a physical memory, which will come back during labour. Your partner may also be at hand to remind you by suggesting positions to make you as comfortable as possible. If you never got time to practise antenatally, don't be downhearted.
Birth is a natural and instinctive process and your body directs you to assume the most comfortable position, which is also the most beneficial during labour and delivery. The position will in most instances be one of the upright ones.